Monday, February 18, 2013

Kidnapping Threat in Cusco, New "Birkie Fever" Reviews

I've had a couple emails about a security threat that was posted on the US Embassy Webpage for Lima, Peru. It's kind of a funny thing to read, check it out here. I got a special chuckle about the Embassy's encouragement for all travelers to register for the STEP program (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), so that they can "watch out for you" and do a bunch of other things entirely to your benefit, none of which are spying on you.

I'm sorry if I sound a little cynical, but I really haven't had the best of luck with the US Embassy in Lima. I've known a couple of the people who worked there, and they were nice people...but I never interacted with them on the few occasions when I had to go to the Embassy. Sure, I'm glad it's there, and if I ever got into trouble, I'm sure I'd be very thankful if they came to help me out. But up until now, the Embassy has been more of a cause of stress for me than a help.

As for this kidnapping threat, I think you have to put things in perspective. The note says that travel to Cusco by Embassy Personnel has been prohibited. However, Embassy personnel are also prohibited from riding in combis or Ticos. I think that indicates that the Embassy is "mother hen" cautious.

Peru itself denies that there is any danger, and honestly, I would have zero qualms about buying a ticket to Cusco and traveling there today. However, if you should go to Cusco, it's your decision, so don't come blaming me if something happens. Also, when traveling abroad, you should always do what you can not to draw attention to yourself (somebody's going to steal your iphone because it represents a year's wages to them). You'd think this would go without saying...but that's not the case.

I'm curious to hear what my regular readers think about this issue. Are any of you concerned with traveling to Cusco in light of the Embassy's warning, or do you think it's overblown nonsense?

In lighter news, the American Birkebeiner is coming up this weekend. I'm a little concerned because yesterday I had some chicken wings and I feel a little washed up food poisoning washed up. The idiot waitress gave me "boneless" even though I specifically asked for "wings with bones." What's everyone's thoughts for tips when the waitress gets the order wrong? I gave about 15%. Would anyone have gone to zero? This is a can of worms I know...but seriously I was ultra clear about what I wanted and it was a matter of a person not paying attention. You'd be mad if you told your doctor your arm hurt and he amputated your leg now wouldn't you?

Well, I probably wouldn't be so angry except that the wings made me sick. The good news is that I've received two great reviews for "Beyond Birkie Fever" recently. You can check them out here and here, please visit their sites and leave a comment, or share the articles on twitter, facebook, etc.. These are more than just quick blurbs, they're really insightful treatments of the work and I'm grateful to the authors!

Don't forget to chime in below!

If you would like a larger file of the above image for a print or use in a  publication, just send $10 to my paypal account at, and mention the title and date of the post where the image appeared. Be sure to include an email I can contact you with for questions.

For those of you who haven't already, make sure you do me a favor a pick up my books Beyond Birkie Fever and The Bone Sword over at the Rhemalda Bookshop!  If you happen to write a review somewhere, please let me know!  Also, add Birkie and Bone Sword to your cart on!


  1. Yes, I hate to say it but that warning would probably make me change my travel plans. I'm a fairly seasoned traveler (I've been all over Africa and Asia as a solo female) and overall I find the State Department Travel Warnings over the top. But if they go to the trouble of issuing a warning so specific and halting embassy travel, I wouldn't take the risk. The whole concept of kidnapping Americans as sport in Latin America (and elsewhere) scares me - I know it doesn't happen often but it seems like an awful thing to put the family through not to mention experience first hand.

    I'd tip 10% if the place was empty but stick to 15% if she seemed new or overwhelmed.

  2. Those US Embassy reports have to be viewed with extreme skepticism. Sure, there's the ever present danger of kidnappings, but I don't think that the danger in Cuzco is any worse than the variety of dangers in places such as New York City where I was raised or the dangers in most other large US urban areas as well. I was in Nicaragua last year and despite a variety of US Embassy warnings about the dangers of travelling in Managua. I felt completely safe there and experienced no problems whatsoever. I think that if someone uses a reasonable amount of caution when visiting Cuzco he'll be all right; and I'd simply consider those Embassy warnings as being overly alarmist and wouldn't worry too much about them.

  3. Dean Charles MarshallFebruary 19, 2013 at 6:56 AM

    To a large extent the "Ugly American" persona has been rearing its ugly head around the world for a long, long time, but for many decades it was kept in check or tolerated because America's presumed "superpower" status was undeniable across the spheres of economic, political, technological and military supremacy. Simply, we were beyond reproach, or at least we thought we were. Perhaps 9/11 was the tipping point or the straw that broke the camel's back, but since then the US has lost much credibility in the eye's of the world where we're viewed with increasing disdain. Famed political commentator, Chalmers Johnson in his book "Blowback" defined this phenomenon as "the unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the civil population of the aggressor government". In other words "karma", where you reap what you sow. Examples being the "shit storm" elicited from our country's meddling in the whole Nicaraguan Iran-Contra scandal during President Ronald Reagan's regime. And our country's horrific "fumbling" in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of President George Bush's "War On Terror" has been an utter foreign policy failure losing us much respect around the world. The point being, other countries, political movements and criminal elements are no longer afraid to move against the United States and its citizens, because they know we are vulnerable, dysfunctional and powerless. Kidnapping American tourists and holding them for ransom, sure why not, what will the US do about it anyway? Send in the drones or Seal Team 6? Doubtful! The US is so broke we can't even afford a down payment on a ham sandwich. I hate to say it, but the "Ugly American" persona is not a figment of the imagination. America has been sticking their nose in other country's business and stirring up all kinds of shit politically, economically and socially for too long. Hell, look what we did in Chile helping over throw the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende and replacing him with the "military junta" of fascist dictator General Augusto Pinochet. The list goes on and on. Peru is on the brink of some serious social unrest due to the reemergence of the Shinning Path terrorist movement, burgeoning cocaine trade and a fresh water crisis of epic proportions. If you go take Mr. Peru's advice and maintain an extremely low profile. Don't act like a pinche gringo flashing your dinero around like a pituco asshole or you just might end up bound and gagged in some taxi driver's trunk on your way to ransom oblivion. Now that's just my opinion and I could be wrong, but regardless, have a nice day and love the one you're with.

  4. Geez, I am a peruvian girl, and I am even afraid of going back to Peru solo. If it wasn't for my family that takes care of me while I am there, I don't think I would've been out of harm's way the times I went there.

    It's not that we flash money, but getting used to living in safe areas in California, makes you careless as of how you handle your cash.

  5. My wife and I are planning on visiting peru next month. Spending a few days in lima and then a few days in cusco..... my wife just saw on the news here about the oakland couple that is now missing in peru.... my wife now wants to cancel our trip...

  6. Sure, don't pay attention to the DOS warnings........and then the USG has to spent a fortune and endanger the lives of others to rescue your dumb arse.